.- With anticipation of English director Ridley Scott’s new film, Kingdom of Heaven steadily growing, the skepticism of many scholars of the middle ages is also growing. Hollywood observers are predicting that the film will be one of the summer’s biggest blockbusters with a cost of over $150 million and an all-star cast including Orlando Bloom of Lord of the Rings fame.
A recent New York Times review said that Muslims in the film “are portrayed as bent on coexistence until Christian extremists ruin everything. And even when the Christians are defeated, the Muslims give them safe conduct to return to Europe.”
Robert Spencer, however, in a column in Front Page Magazine noted that the film, “is being touted as ‘a fascinating history lesson.’ Fascinating, maybe”, he said, “but only as evidence of the lengths to which modern Westerners are willing to go to delude themselves.”
One leading scholar, Professor Jonathan Riley-Smith, author of A Short History of the Crusades, called the movie “rubbish,” and pointed out that, “it’s not historically accurate at all.”
He said that Scott’s film “depicts the Muslims as sophisticated and civilized, and the Crusaders are all brutes and barbarians. It has nothing to do with reality.”
He also blasts one particular plot line saying, “there was never a confraternity of Muslims, Jews and Christians. That is utter nonsense.”
Likewise, Professor Jonathan Philips, who wrote The Fourth Crusade and the Sack of Constantinople, criticized the film’s representation of the Knights Templar, saying that portraying “the Templars as ‘baddies’ is only sustainable from the Muslim perspective, and ‘baddies’ is the wrong way to show it anyway. They are the biggest threat to the Muslims and many end up being killed because their sworn vocation is to defend the Holy Land.”
Spencer added in his column that Kingdom of Heaven takes no “notice of the historical realities of Christians and Jews who lived under Muslim rule.
“They were never treated as equals”, he said, “or accorded full rights as citizens, and always suffered under various forms of institutionalized discrimination and harassment.”
Despite firm criticism however, director Scott is convinced he’s portrayed all sides equally in the film.
“When you see the film, you see balance,” he said.